Yarmouth Port (MA, USA): Conservationists from 13 tiger range countries met in Bali, Indonesia, along with the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative and partner organisations including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW; www.ifaw.org), this week, to develop a concrete plan to reinvigorate the tiger population, pledging to double it by 2022. The plan is expected to serve as a road map for tiger conservation to be adopted by world leaders at the first global summit on tigers this September in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Tigers have experienced a 97 percent decline in population since 1900, when 100,000 roamed the earth. As few as 3,000 wild tigers survive today.
In a global assessment of transnational organised crime, including wildlife trade, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime reported last month that tigers are on the verge of being poached into extinction in the wild. Fueled by an international black market in tiger body parts, poaching threatens to eliminate 5 percent of the remaining wild tiger population each year.
National action plans from each of the tiger range countries will comprise a Global Tiger Recovery Program for adoption at the Tiger Summit. The global blueprint for tiger protection would be backed by joint commitments to better conserve key tiger habitat across range countries and to step up enforcement to eradicate poaching and end trafficking in tiger body parts.
“We welcome this plan for decisive global action to save wild tigers and hope that it translates into real protection for tigers on the ground,” said IFAW president Fred O’Regan. “It’s time to stop these magnificent animals from vanishing before our eyes.”
The proposed declaration will commit tiger range states to strengthening national legislation and law enforcement to combat crime directed against tigers and increase systematic patrolling to safeguard tigers, their prey, and habitat.
“Governments must increase the number of anti-poaching teams and improve national systems for wildlife protection if we are to succeed in saving tigers from extinction,” said Masha Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia.
IFAW is providing the skills and equipment where needed most by rangers and law enforcement officials to combat poaching and illegal trafficking in tigers. In the Russian Far East, where poaching of tigers and their prey is a serious threat to the last 300-400 wild Amur (Siberian) tigers, IFAW was instrumental in increasing the penalty for poaching a wild tiger to US$20,000 from a feeble US$50.00. In India, home to about 1,400 wild tigers, IFAW’s partner Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has trained and equipped more than 8,500 guards working in more than 100 protected areas and 25 other important wildlife areas.
Aligned with the draft plan for adoption at the Tiger Summit this September, IFAW is spear-heading campaigns in China and throughout Asia to reduce consumer demand for tiger body parts, including bones, skins, and even whiskers. The organisation is also pioneering new methods for rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned and injured wild tigers.
Furthering its multi-faceted plan to ensure the survival of wild tigers, IFAW will engage children around the globe to greet participants of the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. The Youth Voices for Tigers campaign will gather video messages from young people calling on world leaders to take action, making sure they do not grow up in a world without tigers.
The campaign is part of IFAW’s international Animal Action Week for tigers which will mobilise tens of thousands of children during the Tiger Summit to hit the streets for tigers in range states throughout Asia.